What is Oligomenorrhea?
A condition where a woman has infrequent or irregular menstrual periods is known as Oligomenorrhea. Women of childbearing age commonly develop this condition. Some type of irregularity in menstruation is normal, however, if a woman who frequently experiences more than 35 days without menstruating or has about four to nine periods in a year, is termed as having oligomenorrhea. Normal periods in a woman occur about every 21 to 35 days. If a woman goes more than 90 days without a period, then she is diagnosed as having oligomenorrhea.
What are the Causes of Oligomenorrhea?
- There are various causes of Oligomenorrhea. It is important to rule out pregnancy as a cause of delayed menstrual cycle.
- One of the main causes of Oligomenorrhea is hormonal imbalances in the body.
- Other common cause of Oligomenorrhea is use of hormonal birth control which leads to Oligomenorrhea as its side effect. Some women, after they start taking birth control pills, will have lighter and lighter periods for about three to six months. In some women, their periods will completely stop.
- Oligomenorrhea can also develop in young women who participate in heavy exercise or sports.
- Eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa, can also cause Oligomenorrhea.
- Having other medical problems such as thyroid problems or diabetes can also cause Oligomenorrhea.
- Oligomenorrhea is also commonly seen in adolescent girls and peri-menopausal women because of their fluctuating hormone levels.
- Certain medications, such as anti-epileptics and antipsychotics, can also cause Oligomenorrhea.
- Women having increased levels of prolactin in their blood can also suffer from Oligomenorrhea.
What are the Symptoms of Oligomenorrhea?
Going more than 35 days without having a period and without being on birth control medication is the primary symptom of Oligomenorrhea. There can be sudden changes in the menstrual cycle in Oligomenorrhea. There are some women who may skip a period and experience a heavier period the next time. There is no need to worry as this is quite normal and is not necessarily an indication of miscarriage.
Other symptoms of Oligomenorrhea consist of pain, discomfort, heavy menstrual bleeding, infertility and a feeling of heaviness in between menstrual cycles.
How is the Diagnosis of Oligomenorrhea Made?
A review of patient’s menstrual history gives a pretty clear indication of Oligomenorrhea. Other than this, physical exam, blood tests and imaging tests may also be done to confirm the diagnosis.
Most of the times, having light menstrual flow or a missed menstrual cycle doesn’t indicate a problem, however, irregular periods can be an indication of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
How is Oligomenorrhea Treated?
Oligomenorrhea is not exactly a serious condition on its own. Treatment of Oligomenorrhea consists of balancing the hormone levels in a woman’s body by prescribing medication. After the hormone levels have balanced out, the patient’s menstrual cycle returns to normal in a couple of months. Birth control pills, which contain synthetic hormones, can also be prescribed for treating Oligomenorrhea. If the cause of oligomenorrhea is obesity or being underweight or some eating disorder, then correcting these problems will resolve Oligomenorrhea.
Rarely some other treatment or surgery is needed to cure oligomenorrhea if the cause of oligomenorrhea is malfunctioning of some gland which is throwing off the balance of hormones in the patient’s body. Oligomenorrhea causes difficulty in conceiving due to the irregular pattern of menstrual cycle.
What is the Prognosis of Oligomenorrhea?
As mentioned before, Oligomenorrhea on its own is not a serious condition; however, it can be a symptom of some other underlying medical problem which needs to be addressed.
If a woman has less than four natural menstrual cycles in a year for many years without using any medication, then she is at an increased risk for endometrial hyperplasia and endometrial cancer. So, it is important to treat Oligomenorrhea and not just ignore it hoping it will resolve on its own.
- Cleveland Clinic – Irregular Periods URL: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14633-irregular-periods
- Mayo Clinic – Menstrual cycle: What’s normal, what’s not URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/expert-answers/menstrual-cycle/faq-20420040
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – Hormonal Birth Control URL: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/hormonal-birth-control
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) URL: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/polycystic-ovary-syndrome
- American Family Physician – Evaluation and Treatment of Menstrual Dysfunction in Women URL: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2013/0601/p861.html